Performance testing is a great way to track progress, modify future workout programming, and challenge athletes to train at a level that generates real results.
There certainly are a long list of tests to choose from, measuring strength, power, speed, agility, conditioning, and much more. We've recently chosen to use just two tests - the vertical jump and 60 yard shuttle run - for our tracking system. With a limited amount of time to administer tests, we needed two that capture as much information as possible in a short amount of time.
Success in the vertical jump requires an excellent strength-to-body mass ratio, is predictive of speed potential, and is a hard test to cheat. For all those reasons it is an excellent performance measure that many teams adopt in a wide range of sports.
The 60 yard shuttle (10 yards up & back done three times) is, to my knowledge, less popular. Pro combines often use sprint tests and shorter distance agility drills that many high school combines and team training programs usually stick with.
And to be honest, so did we up until this year.
But in re-assessing the value of different tests, the 60 yd shuttle run stood out as having a much better 'bang for the buck'. When you only get to train an athlete for one to three hours a week in most cases, streamlining testing is a top priority.
Why did we decide this test was the best choice for our athletes?
1. It Tests 10 Yard Acceleration Repeatedly
Most sports require a series of short burst accelerations far more often than they do longer distance sprints, making the 60yd shuttle far more predictive of success on the field when you show improvement in the test.
2. It Tests Deceleration Just As Much
Deceleration is a critical athletic skill, but is often overlooked. Which makes sense, right? We all are in awe of cars that go really fast, but I can't ever remember someone bragging about how incredible their brakes are.
The ability to slow down helps you to play under control, keeping you from getting beat as a defender while also making it easier to get open on offense. It also allows you to safely and effectively make cuts, the time where almost all non-contact injuries in youth sports occur.
This test provides 5 changes of direction, with at least 2 done on each plant foot, making it an excellent measure of an athlete's ability to safely change direction at top speed.
3. There's A Bit Of A Conditioning Component To It
Although the test takes only 10 to 20 seconds to complete, it can work deep into your speed endurance by the end. Especially if you don't have much of it.
This is one of the main reasons why I recommend this test as opposed to the 5-10-5 shuttle, because you get to see how an athlete moves under fatigue. Sometimes this is where the problems pop up, and it gives a coach much better information on which to help their athletes improve in the future.
4. It Provides Multiple Ways To Improve Over Time
Since you can lower your time with better acceleration, deceleration, or conditioning, you have multiple avenues for development. For an athlete who works hard in their training, seeing steady improvements is the greatest motivator there is.
On the flip side, it also makes it clear than an athlete who never sees even a 0.1 second improvement in time has stagnated and needs to make changes to their programming, approach to training, or both.
5. It Doesn't Require Much Space, Equipment Or Time
All you need is a 10 yard space, a non-slip surface, 2 cones, and some extra room past the finish line for athletes to be able to safely run full speed past the last cone. And even if you give each athlete 2 attempts, you can time a group of 30 athletes in under a half-hour if necessary. So many times the logistics get in the way of doing periodic performance testing, but with the 60 yd shuttle there is very little of that.
6. It's Hard To Memorize The Test
Another concern with shorter agility tests like the 5-10-5 is that you tend to get better the more you practice it, making it just as much a test of how experienced an athlete is in testing than it is of their actual athletic development. As one example, learning to take a power crossover step at the start can help you nearly cover the first 5 yards in one stride, as opposed to the novice who may need 4-5 steps to get there.
It's much less a concern with the 60. The skills you need (10 yd acceleration, change of direction footwork, conditioning) apply just as equally in sport. Get better at the test and you've improved one or more things that 100% correlate to sport success.
There isn't a lot of data available in the 60 yard shuttle to be able to identify elite success, but that is not all that important. What is important is that young athletes have ways to measure their improvement, or lack of improvement, in a test that equally helps them to play better with their teams as well. This test does that, and is hopefully one that will catch on with youth sports teams and organizations.